Friday, September 24, 2010

Aeroparque Jorge Newbery - Plane Spotting

Plane spotting at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, one of the two airports serving Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

La Brigada: Great Beef, Great Atmosphere

Aside from the tango, there's another thing Buenos Aires is renowned for -- good beef.

With that in mind, I recently paid a visit on one of the city's finest steakhouses, La Brigada.

It's located in San Telmo, in the central part of the city.

What I discovered when I arrived was an establishment that was completely packed. Not only were all the tables full, there was quite a mob of people waiting to get a table.

Anytime I see that, I know I'm at a good restaurant.

As I quickly learned, La Brigada is not just about the beef -- it's about all things Argentinean.

The restaurant is decorated with photos and other memorabilia that honor this nation's affection for soccer ... or I suppose I should say "futbol".

Beyond that, there's the restaurant's extensive wine list. Although you can choose from a variety of wines from around the world, the highlight is clearly the homegrown vinos from Mendoza -- Argentina's "wine country".

My companion and I chose a bottle of Alta Vista Premium Malbec. Great choice. We had no problem finishing it.

At this point, I should mention La Brigada's menu. Not only does it feature beef, the menu itself is also made of cow ... cowhide, that is (see photo). Very cool.

As is tradition in these parts, we began our meal with empanadas. Restaurants typically offer a few types of empanadas (most notably beef, chicken, jam and cheese). I went for the beef. Naturally.

With the empanadas out of the way -- and our bottle of Malbec slowly disappearing -- our main course arrived.

At this point, I don't even recall the exact steak I ordered, but I do know this -- it was outstanding.

When our steaks arrived, our waiter demonstrated just how tender the meat was. He cut my companion's steak ... with a spoon!

As we dug in, we both agreed -- these were easily some of the best steaks we'd ever had. Ever. In any city.

Furthermore, I have no doubt that if you come to La Brigada as a vegetarian, after just one bite of steak, you would end up renouncing vegetarianism, and loudly proclaim your new-found devotion to beef.

At some point, we finished the bottle of wine. I'm not exactly sure when, because I completely lost track of time during our visit to this fine restaurant.

Although it was sad to finish my steak, fortunately, we wisely left room for dessert.

I'm pretty sure we had crème brulée, but I could be mistaken. After all, we did finish the bottle of wine, so some details do escape my memory. But I definitely do recall the cappuccino.

Once that was out of the way, we left, but not before agreeing that this steakhouse is one of the finest restaurants we have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Exercise in Futility: A Trip to the Supermarket in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is an interesting city.

It's the second-largest city in South America (after São Paulo), with some 13 to 14 million people.  Whether you like music, theater, tango, or fine dining, the city has endless things to offer visitors and locals alike.  It has an incredible "vibe" that few other cites can match.

But there's one very surprising thing that as a visitor, you probably won't see -- the city has some of the worst supermarkets I've ever seen.

Product selection is very limited, and the quality of fresh produce is not great.  Prices are equal (or higher) than at North American grocery stores.

And furthermore, you'll generally find yourself waiting eons in line, just to pay for your food.

Quite frankly, every time I'm in a grocery store here (regardless of the chain -- Coto, Disco, or Carrefour), I can't help but think this is what it must have been like in the old Soviet Union -- ie. lining up for hours just to buy a few basic staples like bread.

A trip to the store is an excercise in futility.  I often simply leave after walking in, only to discover lines with a dozen or more people (the worst I've counted is 23 people).  Why so long?  Well the fact that only four cashiers (out of a possible 10) are open at any one time, certainly doesn't help.

But there also doesn't seem to be any concern on the part of the cashiers to keep people moving.  Everything moves at glacier-like speed.  I feel the need to bring an over-night bag with me, and prepare to camp out.  Will I make it out of the store before closing time?  Who knows.  Neither the cashiers nor the managers seem to care if they ever get you out of the store.

Adding to the bizarre situation at the check-out are the antique cash registers.  They must be 25 years old.  Technology has passed them by many times over.

Also, are you buying fruits and vegetables?  Well the cashiers can't weigh them.  Sorry.

You'll have to go to a separate line in the produce section where somebody will weigh your fruit, and then slap a bar-code on it.  THEN you can proceed to the cashiers.

At least their old equipment can read bar-codes.  Barely.

On the positive side, the stores do accept credit cards (something many businesses in Argentina don't like to do), and they do have a very respectable wine selection.

But no, a trip to the grocery store in Buenos Aires is not fun.  It's an experience you are forced to endure.  Or do what I often do -- walk out and just go to a restaurant. It's easier, faster, and you get better food.

More on the restaurant experience in a forthcoming post ...